"After the back-to-back attacks in Dayton and El Paso, this president once again signaled he was open to tougher background checks to help curb gun violence," CNN's Chris Cuomo said Monday night. "But once again, he's lost his spine." On Sunday, Trump was noncommittal and evasive, telling reporters that the U.S. already has "very strong background checks right now," echoing messaging from the National Rifle Association.
Cuomo pointed to internal congressional Republican talking points on gun legislation, including falsely blaming "violence from the left" and claiming universal background checks are a Democratic ploy to start a federal gun registry with an eye toward seizing guns. His guest, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) said the NRA has gotten to Trump.
NRA officials have lobbied Trump and his top aides since Dayton and El Paso, arguing that background checks aren't effective at preventing mass shootings and that many states Trump needs to win in 2020 are rich in NRA members who don't want new gun restrictions, White House aides and other sources tell The Washington Post. Also, "Trump's campaign commissioned a poll on guns after this month's shootings, and his political advisers warned him that there is little support for significant action among Republican voters, and even some Democrats." An unidentified White House official insisted to the Post that "the president is not backing down."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has told advisers he won't allow consideration of gun legislation unless Trump is fully on board and it has widespread Senate Republican backing; Trump seems keen to let the Senate take the lead. "I think he personally wants to do something," Brendan Buck, a top aide to former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), tells the Post, "but I'm not sure how equipped he is to maintain his attention on it for the next two months — which this would require — in the face of pushback from people he cares about."